Date of Award

4-14-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

William C. Burger, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Braxton L. Apperson, III, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jason Milne, Ph.D.

Abstract

Approximately 3 million elders are mistreated annually in the United States. Due to factors such as increase in life expectancy, this number is likely to amplify. Adult Protective Services agencies across the nation have been established by The Social Security Act, with purpose and goal of providing services to stop elder mistreatment and prevent it from occurring further. Although program was created over 40 years ago, APS agencies continue to make little progress and are publicly and legislatively neglected when compared to child welfare programs and domestic violence programs.

This thesis presents overview of APS problems on local, state, and national levels. Issues such as lack of federal legislation, failure to provide uniform definitions and guidelines across the nation, and deficiency in pubic awareness are problems present on national level. Unlike child welfare programs, APS does not have a uniform federal law dealing solely with elder mistreatment. APS is only mentioned in parts of Older Americans Act and Social Security Act. Definitions of mistreatment, population, and capacity differ from one state to another.

APS workers face multitude of issues when receiving reports, investigating mistreatment, and disposing of cases. Lack of training and cooperation between relevant agencies is hindering the appropriate provision of APS on state and local levels. In addition, budget shortfalls and cuts affect workers and victims alike. For each $100 spent on mistreated child, only $2 is spent on a mistreated elder.

Policy recommendations, which are expected to resolve above noted issues, are offered. Enactment of Elder Justice Act is a plausible solution for problems on national level and would decrease the ambiguity of definitions and guidelines between the states. Criminalization of the mistreatment, which would include change in focus from solely victim-oriented to inclusion of prosecution of the perpetrator, would allow APS workers to exercise more authority and discretion. Finally, promoting awareness and multi-agency efforts is necessary in improving APS practice.

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